WASHINGTON: “Here are the terrorists, catch them,” shouted a young man as he saw a couple walking on the corner of the 15th and H streets near the White House. “Tell her, she cannot wear a hijab in America.”
The woman was in shalwar-kameez, no hijab, and the man was in normal western attire, like most men around him. Both, however, had light-brown skin, which made them look different from others.
While this was Sept 11, 2001, the day the terrorist attacks changed the world, for most Muslim Americans, the ramifications of the Islamophobia that those attacks had generated, continue.
Statistics released by FBI show that hate crimes against Muslims in the United States skyrocketed immediately after Sept 11, 2001 and are still on an upward trend.
As Americans, Muslims included, solemnly marked the 21st anniversary of the attacks, Khalid Tanvir, a shopkeeper in Springfield, Virginia, commented: “America has changed. The pre-9/11 America will never return, at least not for Muslims.”
In a 2022 report, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned that “in recent years, anti-Muslim sentiment has spiked” and manifests itself in many ways, including “attacks on mosques” that “directly take aim at religious freedom”.
The ACLU, which looks after basic rights granted to American citizens by their constitution, noted that “existing and proposed mosque sites across the country have been targeted for vandalism and other criminal acts, and there have been efforts to block or deny necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of other facilities.”
A Gallup Survey report noted that in the first decade after 9/11 US authorities identified more than 160 Muslim-American terrorist suspects, “just a percentage of the thousands of acts of violence that occur in the United States each year”.
Yet, it created an impression that “Muslim-American terrorism is more prevalent than it really is,” the report added.
It noted that those who saw Muslims as suspects ignored the fact that since 9/11 “tips from the Muslim-American community are the largest single source of initial information to US authorities”.
After a six-year hiatus, US President Joe Biden resumed the 22-year-old tradition of hosting Eid celebrations at the White House in May this year. The practice was discontinued by the Trump administration, although President Donald Trump invited diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for iftar dinner in 2018 and 2019.
“Muslims make our nation stronger every single day, even as they still face real challenges and threats in our society, including targeted violence and Islamophobia that exists,” Mr Biden told those who attended the Eid dinner.
The semi-official Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting service noted that President Biden’s comments “marked a significant change of tone from his predecessor, Donald Trump, who said in 2016, “I think Islam hates us.”
In 2022 Ramazan, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported a nine per cent increase in the number of civil rights complaints it received from Muslims in the United States since 2020.
“CAIR received a total of 6,720 complaints nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, discrimination, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, prisoners’ rights, school incidents, and hate speeches,” it mentioned.
CAIR, which began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack in Oklahoma City, claimed in a report earlier this year that Islamophobic groups collected nearly $106 million between 2017 and 2019.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the CAIR’s Los Angeles chapter, told reporters on Sunday, “Muslims continue to be the target of hate, bullying, and discrimination as a result of the stereotypes that were perpetuated by Islamophobes and the media in the years following the 9/11 attacks.”